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Cowboy Bebop

RyuuKyuzo
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5/7/2013 4:17:39 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I just finished re-watching the series after having not seen it in about 7 years, and I want to get out some of my thoughts on it.

A lot of people call cowboy bebop the single best anime ever made, and honestly, I can't think of one I can say is definitively better, but I don't think Cowboy bebop is the best by leaps and bounds like it's die-hard fans seem to insist. It has a great deal of flaws that I feel kept it from living up to its hype. Yes, I'm saying Cowboy bebop is overrated. On a serious anime forum, this would get you ostracized, but I think I'm safe here. needless to say, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Issue 1: Skimpy plot

The series is 26 episodes long, but less than half of them actually develop the plot in any way. For example, Vicious, the shows over-arching villain, is only present in 5 episodes. The rest, it's like he doesn't even exist. You could technically only watch these 5 episodes and see everything you need to see. Edward's back-story virtually non-existent and what little there is get's rushed through at the end of one episode near the end of the series.

You never actually learn about Faye's past, she just tells Spike that she has her memories back and that's it. Jet's back-story only takes 1 episode, and it's nothing special. There's no real twists to it, it's pretty much exactly what you'd guess happened. Ein's story is also pretty much non-existent, but Ein's a dog, so whatever...

The point is, you can get the entire plot in 5 episodes, 8 if you include the subplots -- with the rest being "bounty of the week" style episodes which are so detached from the main plot if you were to see every non-plot based episode in the reverse order they were made, you would have no idea were it not for the order the main cast is introduced.

The real pain in the a$$ of it is that there was plenty of story elements to explore that went ignored. It's not as though the story was already spread too thin, they just chose to ignore these unexplored and unexplained aspects of the plot and instead chose to have the majority of the episodes be non-vital.

If you really wanna go bare-bonez about it, the plot only actually takes up 2 episodes -- the last two. The other three are also largely filler than only serves to hint at the main story, which only takes the last two episodes to work through.

I kept waiting for the plot to kick in, but once you finish you realize there never really was a plot to begin with.

Issue 2: Underdeveloped Characters

This goes pretty much hand-in-hand with the underdeveloped plot, but there's more character specific parts I want to get into.

I) Vicious
Vicious is the main antagonist of the series, but we never find out anything meaningful about him. We know he worked with Spike in the past, and that he's a cold-hearted killer, but that's it. We never learn why he's such a prick, what his motives are, how he become such a pick to begin with, what the deal with the bird he's always with is, why he uses a katana, etc. etc. etc.

We don't know anything about him, and he doesn't really do anything memorable. He's not even in enough episodes to be considered Spike's nemesis. He's just a recurring character with no real back-story who dies at the end.

II) Julia
Julia is the character that drives the plot (what little there is). Finding her is the reason why Spike does pretty much anything he does, and sh'es repeatedly hyped up to be some amazing woman who Spike simply can't let go of. The problem is, she has no personality. None. She's only in 2 episodes in person (the last two) and she does nothing memorable, nor does she say anything memorable, then she dies and nobody cares because we know literally nothing about her. -- even Spike doesn't seem all that shook up about it. Had she not died, the plot would have carried on the same anyway.

I felt this was a waste. There was so much mystery about this person, but because she wasn't developed in any way her death was weightless. I just finished the series, and I honestly can't remember a single one of her lines. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

III) Spike
You'd think the main character would be known through and through by the end of the series, but we really have no idea what's up with Spike right up to the finale. He has a fake eye, but why? Do to an injury? But I thought Julia sought to his injuries that time he got all shot up (which CB never goes into either). Why was he a hit-man for the syndicate? (Not much is explained about the syndicate either -- it's just your generic crime family). Why was he in love with Julia? We never really get a scene of them interacting pre-love other than a couple still-shot flash-backs.

III) Everyone in General
Aside from skimpy back-stories, there's no character development. All of the characters are the same at the beginning of the series as they are at the end of it. That's pretty much all I have to say about that. If you haven't watched the series you'll just have to take my word on it =/.

Issue 3: Nothing New Under the Sun

Maybe it's unfair to criticize a show's originality after 13 years, but it's not like these plot devices were invented in 1999.

The plot does nothing particularly new or exciting. The show sticks to tried and true tropes, it just doesn't commit to any of them. There's a love triangle between the protagonist, antagonist, and the blank-slate woman called "Julia", but there's never a scene with all three together so there was never any romantic tension, and you wouldn't even know Vicious had dated Julia without looking it up online. As far as the viewer is aware, Vicious had absolutely no connections/feelings for Julia. It doesn't help that whatever triangle they had at most comes up 5 times in the entire series.

The syndicate is the main mafia in control of everything on Mars. Okay, this has been done before too, but once again nothing new is fleshed out here -- because nothing is fleshed out here. We never come to understand the motives or the size of the syndicate. Why does it even exist? It's only relevant in a couple of episodes, and the head honchos on the syndicate are killed off before you even learn their names (I'm not sure if their names were even given...).

At the end, the syndicate was just your generic mafia used to push the plot, but because the plot was so thin, you could technically remove the syndicate, have Vicious be a solo guy and the plot would pretty much be the same. There would just be a few less name-less goons for Spike to kill at the end of the series.

The characters themselves are pretty cookie-cutter too. Spike; the moody, substance abusing badass with a troubled past. Vicious; the evil guy who does evil things and talks with an evil sounding voice. Faye; the ditz with tits. You get the picture.

Really, it's difficult to actually criticize the story for being unoriginal in any meaningful way because it does so little with these tropes. It could have taken these ideas down a new path, but it also could have developed into an overly cliched story too. I suppose you could say that's what's original about it -- it's open ended enough that if you think the story is cliched, it's largely your own fault for not imagining a more original back story. But while it's okay to leave a little mystery to a story, if I'm expected to fill in major plot points myself, I might as well just write my own story =___=...

Ultimately, Cowboy bebop comes off as an anime uninterested in its own plot. It would much rather go on a kickass space adventure hunting down thieves and drug dealers than explore it's own characters. It's hard to get emotionally invested when the plot doesn't actually kick in until the series finale, and for me, this keeps this anime from being the masterpiece it's chalked up to be.
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RyuuKyuzo
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5/7/2013 5:02:48 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Now, given all that you might think I hated the series, but that's not the case at all. Remember, I said it's the best series I can think up off the top of my head (Samurai Champloo might be a tad better, but they were both directed by the same guy and not surprisingly my criticisms of both are largely the same).
Gurren Lagann won me over in its underdog story and massive scale, but gets cut down behind Cowboy Bebop due to its flawed plot. Death Note might be better, but I've only read the manga, and that was also about 7 years ago so I'd have to re-visit it to make that call. Fist of the North Star was badass as hell, but it jumped the shark for me when Kenshiro beat up a tank. Etc. etc. etc.

I could go on and on listing which anime's come close and why they just didn't make the cut, but the quick and sweet answer is that I think most anime just sucks. It really does. I know anime is real cool with the kids and a lot of you will disagree with me on this (well, maybe not you guys specifically), and if you know me you may be surprised to read me saying that (or maybe not, I tend to dislike a lot of things typically considered givens; like eating, music, fiction in general, chocolate, etc.) but looking back, most of it is garbage.

Not Cowboy Bebop though. Despite all it's flaws, it got a lot of stuff right.

1: OST

The soundtrack to Cowboy bebop is the best soundtrack to an anime I can think of. It. Is. Cool.

2: Dub

The dubbed version of this anime is perfect. Very few animes have a dub better than the original voice actors. Dragon Ball Z is one of them, but that's more because the Japanese voice acting in Dragon Ball Z is criminally awful than because the dubbed voice acting is great (although it IS pretty great). Jet's voice is spot on. It's the single most apt voice for a character I can think of -- anime or otherwise. Also, Steve Blum brings a voice to Spike that the Koichi Yamadera just couldn't bring.
Blum's voice sounds like it's been hung in a smoke-house for two weeks, soaked in a tub of whiskey, then dried in a cement mixer filled with nails and the salty tears of a thousand broken-hearted men.

Even the directer of Cowboy Bebop conceded that the dub was better. As far as I know, that hasn't happened with any other anime.

3: Cool Characters

Despite being underdeveloped and ignoring that there's really no character development throughout the series, these characters are just cool people. This is really the strong point of the series.

Cowboy Bebop isn't about the plot or character development, it's about these characters and how they interact with one another. I think this is why the writers opted for so many unessential episodes rather than focusing on the plot; they wanted the focus of the show to be character interaction and not the plot. And to that extent, they did a great job. The characters always interacted in a natural way. Between the main cast, none of the conversations felt forced or out of place. They felt like real people with real depth to their character -- it's just a shame we were privy to so little of their thoughts and motivations when it came to the actual plot, but whatever. It's still one of the best, if not the best anime out there.

I'm sure sometime in the next decade I'll re-visit it again; not for the linear plot (one time through and you've picked up everything it laid down), but for the characters.

Cowboy bebop: 8/10

Great, but not a masterpiece.
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wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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5/7/2013 8:31:47 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Warning: I found the post tl;dr, but I did read the introduction, and the headers.

I fully agree with RK on this, and found out when I borrowed this from a friend that it was a gigantic waste of my time, almost as much so as NEO evangelion (or whatever it's called). I think most people that like Cowboy Bebop prefer style over substance, and no question that it contains style overload.

For an anime that has all of the pluses of Cowboy Bebop and few if any of the negatives, I would highly recommend the Ghost in the Shell TV series, both seasons (the first one is a bit overboard on its pompousness, yet is nevertheless a great story). There is a ton of substance in GITS, it can get quite philosophical (sometimes too much so as in the 2nd movie - totally tangential to the TV series), and it has a compelling story.

This is coming from someone who read the first 40 pages of the actual comic and put it down in disgust after stumbling upon the porn.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
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5/7/2013 8:33:31 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Just to summarize, I like Cowboy Bebop like how I like Seinfeld. Both are great entertainment, but both are largely about nothing.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
RyuuKyuzo
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5/7/2013 2:32:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
wrich, next to maybe charlesb, you are the king of tl;dr =p

Anyway, I was thinking of watching Evangelion next to see if it lived up to its hype. You seemed to dislike it, so is it worth the watch?
If you're reading this, you're awesome and you should feel awesome.
wrichcirw
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5/7/2013 3:53:19 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/7/2013 2:32:22 PM, RyuuKyuzo wrote:
wrich, next to maybe charlesb, you are the king of tl;dr =p

Then you are learning from the best! LOL

Anyway, I was thinking of watching Evangelion next to see if it lived up to its hype. You seemed to dislike it, so is it worth the watch?

IMHO no, unless you're an aficionado and just want to say you've seen it before. I watched it a long time ago, and the only real thing I got out of it (maybe spoilers) were themes of childhood angst and anxiety, especially in dealing with girls/women and distant authority figures at pre-adolescence. Shinji's dad is ridiculously distant by any standard, and then there's the whole deal with the infirmed girl with the eyepatch that I never understood. Oh, and giant robots of course, but there are better series for that, and I distinctly remember the robots being more of a backdrop for the psychological projections of the children, if you can imagine that. Shinji is a gigantic, shy mess of a kid that should have shacked with Asuka on multiple occasions. The anime would have been painful to watch had I not been around good company.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
RyuuKyuzo
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5/7/2013 8:04:31 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I made a mistake before, Cowboy bebop is actually 15 years old, not 13.
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Paradox_7
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5/14/2013 2:41:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I watched a handful of these, thought it was awesome, then watched a few more and meh.. discontinued my interest.

I thought Samurai Champloo was one of the best, and death note was awesome initially but had a horrible ending...
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RyuuKyuzo
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5/14/2013 3:46:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/14/2013 2:41:39 PM, Paradox_7 wrote:
I watched a handful of these, thought it was awesome, then watched a few more and meh.. discontinued my interest.

I thought Samurai Champloo was one of the best, and death note was awesome initially but had a horrible ending...

I only read the manga for DeathNote, so I don't know how close the anime ending is to the original, but I felt the manga ending was pretty lame too.

Not enough of a mind-f*ck for me.
If you're reading this, you're awesome and you should feel awesome.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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5/23/2013 10:55:40 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I agree with the OP, Cowboy Bebop is a very good series, but not the best of all time because of the thin plot line. It evokes the classic "hard life of a detective" genre that works well. To be fair, there is a lot classic literature that succeeds not because of a novel or complex plot line, but rather how well the author works with the theme. Shakespeare did well with simple plots.

There is no accounting for taste. My favorite series include Rurouni Kenshin, The Third, Witch Hunter Robin, and Initial D. Initial D is interesting because there is wide agreement it has the worst music of any anime ever made, and the character animation is wretched as well. The background animation is first class. an odd combination. What makes Initial D a classic is the theme of finding the right amount of passion in life: too little and you never succeed at important things, too much and you crash and burn.

Solty Rei does a good job with a nostalgic "hardened loser" theme, a little like Cowboy Bebop. The lead character, Solty Rei, is a girl robot with a severe lack of fashion sense. There seems to be a lot of those is anime.
RyuuKyuzo
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5/24/2013 4:08:37 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/23/2013 10:55:40 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
I agree with the OP, Cowboy Bebop is a very good series, but not the best of all time because of the thin plot line. It evokes the classic "hard life of a detective" genre that works well. To be fair, there is a lot classic literature that succeeds not because of a novel or complex plot line, but rather how well the author works with the theme. Shakespeare did well with simple plots.

There is no accounting for taste. My favorite series include Rurouni Kenshin, The Third, Witch Hunter Robin, and Initial D. Initial D is interesting because there is wide agreement it has the worst music of any anime ever made, and the character animation is wretched as well. The background animation is first class. an odd combination. What makes Initial D a classic is the theme of finding the right amount of passion in life: too little and you never succeed at important things, too much and you crash and burn.

Solty Rei does a good job with a nostalgic "hardened loser" theme, a little like Cowboy Bebop. The lead character, Solty Rei, is a girl robot with a severe lack of fashion sense. There seems to be a lot of those is anime.

Witch Hunter Robin? No kidding.

I remember watching that when I was a little guy (10-ish or so) and each episode had a pretty significant emotional impact on me. I went back and watched all the episodes a couple years ago, but it just didn't have the impact on me that it did when I was younger.

I wasn't sure if that's because emotional sensitivity is curbed with age, or if the show is just too mono-toned to evoke an emotional response in me anymore now that I've experienced more complex emotions first hand. You're older than I am, so if you like the show then odds are my tastes have just changed.

Maybe I'll give it another shot in a couple years once I've forgotten most of the plot.
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RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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5/25/2013 2:36:41 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I didn't find Witch Hunter Robin very emotional. Like many anime, it's a coming-of-age story. I liked the way it maintained the drama and the atmosphere, and the mix of gritty reality with fantastic events. The great mystery that remains is how Robin got that hairdo under a bicycle helmet.

I've never encountered anyone in the U.S. close to my age who likes anime, so there is not much grounds for generalizing from my taste. In Japan, anime is mainstream for all age groups.
ClassicRobert
Posts: 2,487
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5/25/2013 6:30:34 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Any thoughts on Trigun? I'm looking for a new anime to start watching, and it seems interesting.
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ClassicRobert
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5/25/2013 6:32:23 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
But I would have to agree with all the mentions of thin plot and development. I actually watched my first episode of Cowboy Bebop yesterday, and while it was good and I liked the idea behind it, I feel no need to watch a second episode.
Debate me: Economic decision theory should be adjusted to include higher-order preferences for non-normative purposes http://www.debate.org...

Do you really believe that? Or not? If you believe it, you should man up and defend it in a debate. -RoyLatham

My Pet Fish is such a Douche- NiamC

It's an app to meet friends and stuff, sort of like an adult club penguin- Thett3, describing Tinder